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Environmental horticulture saskatchwan, in the south of Saskatchewan, produces more than 50,000 tons of high quality grain and beans each year. It also contributes significantly to the province’s economy.
As one of the largest grain and bean producing areas in the province, it is important to Saskatchwan’s economy. Unfortunately, the industry also faces significant challenges, including over-exploitation of the province’s groundwater, soil, and crop resources, soil degradation, over-grazing of range lands, and a lack of water resources.
According to Agriculture Minister, Don Morgan, the problems that affect the industry – and most importantly, the quality of land for future farming in Saskatchewan – affect the province’s entire agricultural sector.
“The soil and climate in southwest Saskatchewan make this region a great place to grow grain and it is vital to our future,” Morgan said in a news release. “We will continue to work with our farmers to increase soil conservation, enhance water management, and to help build water infrastructure to support a prosperous agriculture industry that contributes to the economy of the province.”
Saskatchewan is a large grain and bean producing area.
The province is home to an abundance of fertile, dry land – known as the Greenbelt.
The greenbelt is land that is protected from development and is not supposed to be used for any non-agricultural purpose.
The soil in southwest Saskatchewan is very fertile, with great potential to grow grain and beans.
“The area just north of the Canada–US border and the east of the Qu’Appelle River Valley is one of the most fertile areas in the world. It is known as the Boreal Forest and is the location of the largest concentration of beaver in North America,” according to Saskatoon’s Agricultural Society.
The Greenbelt protects this fertile land.
But, there’s a problem.
In recent years, the Greenbelt has been used for grazing and farming land outside of its ‘protected’ area.
“The land used for grazing and farming in the greenbelt has been declining over the years and some of that land will have to be allowed to return to natural habitat,” Morgan told The StarPhoenix.
That means southwest Saskatchewan will see a decline in its farmland.
As an example, a landowner in that region bought an eight-hectare farm for $1,000.
In the past, it sold for $50,000.
The Greenbelt allows farmers to use their land outside of that protected area.
But with so much farmland being taken out of use, the land will revert to its original state of forest and wetlands – which will not allow crops to be grown.
The Greenbelt is a protected area, so developers cannot build on it. But, if the farmland goes back to its natural state, it will allow for more farmland to be developed.
Saskatchewan is the second largest producer of wheat in the world.
As farmland outside of the Greenbelt is taken out of use, the province will have to replace this lost crop with another.
But one expert said this is not an issue that can be taken lightly.
“The province of Saskatchewan is the second largest producer of wheat in the world. It is an important crop, and that means it will have an impact on the world food system,” added Morgan.
There are a number of alternatives to this issue, according to Morgan, but they require the involvement of the federal and provincial governments.
One of those options includes increasing support for diversified agriculture.
This option is gaining momentum, says Morgan.
“By diversifying, the world is able to produce enough food to feed the world. It’s not just about producing wheat and barley, but also crops that can feed people, but also the cattle and sheep and poultry and dairy,” Morgan said.
Another option is to have farmers take care of their land.
“Farmers have a lot of land, and it’s a resource that they know how to use well. And if we give them the opportunity to become more diversified, we will not be in trouble. If we support farmers, and let them know what is important, they will do it,” Morgan added.
So what can we do to help?
We can support the local producers, but also the farmer’s markets and the farmers, Morgan said.
“We must also support small farmers. This is where food comes from. We must also support food. It’s a very important thing.”
There are many organizations that are working together to ensure that all of these options are considered.
“By diversifying agriculture, we are able to produce food in different ways,” said Morgan.
How do you diversify the food system?
"The way you diversify the food system, is through having food produced all around the world. Food production should be done with nature's help. When farmers plant crops, they must plant with the rain and the sun, to produce food for humans and the earth. It is the land that has helped us. Diversifying agriculture, is planting the crops with nature and the support of the earth, rather than producing it from a factory, which is a completely different approach.
The farmers and farmers' markets are important to have. The farmers in the farmers’ markets, should offer a variety of crops. We can support our farmers, by buying the local produce and supporting local markets and making sure we buy from the farmers and farm that is helping our environment and is producing food that is produced with nature. That is the way we can keep the food system stable and healthy."